By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
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(Unless Otherwise Noted, All Scripture References Are From The New King James Version of the Bible).
Many people teach that there are “lost books of the Bible.”
Yet what does this mean, and what shall we say to this allegation?
In this series of lessons, you will find the answers to this question (and other related ones).
You will learn also some of the evidences that the Bible is the complete and final revelation of God to mankind. This is certainly the claim that the Scriptures make for themselves!
II Timothy 3:16-17-16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Further, there is an irrefutable foundation of evidence to establish this fact.
In order to investigate the subject of the “lost books of the Bible,” we first need to understand some basic facts about how the Bible came into existence. That will be the focus of this study.
The process by which the Bible was created may be described in six words.
The word “revelation” literally means “communication” or “unveiling.” God has revealed Himself to mankind in two different ways: in general revelation (through nature), and in special revelation (through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Bible).
General revelation shows us that there is a God.
From studying nature, one may come to the conclusion that God exists:
Romans 1:18-20-18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Psalm 19:1-The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
The more man learns about the complexity and the nature of the universe, the more he is able to discern the existence of the Creator through it.
Even the most hardened skeptics may be able to discern the hand of God in His handiwork.
“But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past…His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.” (Albert Einstein, Ideas And Opinions, 40 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Three Rivers Press)
World renowned former atheist Antony Flew became a believer in God and wrote rhe following near the end of his life::
“I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that has guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.” (Antony Flew, There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, 87-88 (Kindle Edition); HarperCollins E-Books)
However, while general revelation teaches us that there is a God (and also teaches us many of His basic attributes sixh as His goodness, lerfection, etc.), man needs more than this; he needs special revelation from God.
We need to know who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.
We need special revelation.
Jeremiah the Prophet describes our need in this way:
Jeremiah 10:23-O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
The word “inspiration” comes from the Greek word theopneustos.
This word had reference to the way that God would so work upon His Prophets and Apostles that the word which they spoke and wrote was actually the Word of God, and not the word of man.
Several Scriptures help us understand this claim of the Bible writers:
II Samuel 23:2-The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.
Jeremiah 1:9-Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
Matthew 10:19-20-19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
II Peter 1:20-21-20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The word for “moved’ in this passage is very graphic:
…”to carry; pass., to be carried, to be borne along. Pres. describes the action as it was in progress. The word was used of a ship carried along by the wind (s. Acts 17:15, 17). The metaphor here is of prophets raising their sails, the Holy Spirit filling them and carrying their craft along in the direction He wished. Men spoke; God spoke (Green).” (Cleon Rogers Jr. & Cleon Rogers III, The New Linguistic And Exegetical Key To The Greek New Testament, 584; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
The word “interpretation” is also worthy of study:
“The word “interpretation” in 2 Peter 1:20 literally means “unloosing” in the original Greek.50 The verse could be paraphrased: “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own unloosing.” In other words, the prophecies did not stem merely from the prophets themselves or by human imaginings, but ultimately came from God (as verse 21 goes on to emphatically state). Put another way, no prophecy of Scripture comes from (or originates from) a human being’s personal interpretation—that is, his personal understanding of events around him—but rather comes from God….The word “for” at the beginning of verse 21 carries an explanatory function—indicating that verse 21 explains verse 20 by restating its contents and then pointing to God as the author of Scripture. Hence, the context of verse 21 indicates that the collective focus of verses 20 and 21 is Scripture’s origin, not its interpretation. In keeping with this, we must emphasize that the word moved (in the phrase “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”) literally means “borne along” or “carried along.” Luke uses this same word in the book of Acts to refer to a ship being borne along or carried along by the wind (Acts 27:15,17). The experienced sailors on the ship could not navigate it because the wind was so strong. The ship was being driven, directed, and carried about by the wind. This is similar to the Spirit’s driving, directing, and carrying the human authors of the Bible as they wrote (2 Peter 1:20-21). The word “moved” is a strong one, indicating the Spirit’s complete superintendence of the human authors. Of course, just as sailors are individually active and consciously involved while on a ship, in the same way, the authors of God’s Word were individually active and consciously involved in writing Scripture. But it was the Spirit who ultimately directed them or carried them along.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses, 38-39 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
While the actual process by which the Word of God was inspired is not completely known, we need to remember at least two things.
First, the inspiration of the Bible is verbal-that is, the very words of the Scriptures are inspired (not just the concepts or principles of the Bible).
One passage which bears this out is from Paul’s first letter to the church of Christ at Corinth:
I Corinthians 2:13-These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
I Corinthians 2:13 (Easy To Read Version)-When we say this, we don’t use words taught to us by human wisdom. We use words taught to us by the Spirit. We use the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
Second, the inspiration of the Bible is plenary, or full. The idea of the plenary inspiration of the Bible is that the entire Bible is inspired of God (not just parts of it).
So, the Bible does not contain the Word of God (in the sense that some of it is inspired and some isn’t); rather it IS the Word of God.
Jesus clearly endorsed this view of Scripture:
Matthew 5:18-For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
The “jot” or “tittle” had reference to the smallest parts of the Hebrew alphabet.
“The smallest letter translates the word ita, the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. To Jesus’ Jewish hearers it would have represented the yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which looks something like an apostrophe. A stroke (keraia) literally means “little horn” and refers to the small marks that help distinguish one Hebrew letter from another. It was a small extension of a letter similar to a serif in modern typefaces…No other statement made by our Lord more clearly states His absolute contention that Scripture is verbally inerrant, totally without error in the original form in which God gave it. That is, Scripture is God’s own Word not only down to every single written word, but down to every letter and the smallest part of every letter.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 65244-6541 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Illinois; Moody Press)
Thus, Christ was affirming His belief that the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures-even down to the smallest parts-were inspired of God.
Any person can claim to be speaking the Word of God to people.
However, what makes the Bible Prophets and Apostles unique in this department is the fact that God authenticated His Word and His Messengers through various ways.
There are many evidences that the Bible is the Word of God. At this juncture, let’s notice the way that God confirmed His Word miraculously:
John 3:2-This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
John 20:30-31-30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Acts 2:22-Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Hebrews 2:3-4-3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
These miracles of God authenticated His Word and His Messengers, showing that what they were teaching and writing was truly Divinely inspired.
Ancient extra-biblical historians also document these miracles (Josephus, the Jewish Talmuds, ancient Egyptian documents, the Acts Of Pontius Pilate, etc)
When the people of God recognized that a Book was truly from God, they would accept that Book into the “Canon,” or the collection of Sacred Writings.
literally the word sinply means “measueing stick.”
There were very specific rules for determining which Books were included in the Canon, and this careful process ensured that non-inspired books were excluded.
“The 66 books that were chosen met the following strict standards: 1. Does the book possess a definite prophetic and inspirational quality; does it manifest a clear “Thus saith the Lord?” 2. Was the book written by a reputable prophet, authored by an apostle, or a contemporary intimately associated with an apostle? 3. Was the book accepted, collected, preserved, distributed, and read by God’s people either in the Old Testament period or New Testament period? 4. Do its contents and message harmonize with the standards of sound biblical teaching? Many of the false writings contained an abundance of fanciful legends, factual inaccuracies, and doctrinal heresies. 5. Does it possess a dynamic, life-transforming power which has a universal impact upon men? 6. Was it endorsed and accepted by successive generations of believers, such as the early church fathers? In other words, there seemed to be a consistent, prevailing witness of the overwhelming majority of the church concerning a book’s divine inspiration.” (Joanne Howe, From Nun To Priest: Hope For Those Bound By Tradition, 650-658 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)
Some object that the Hebrew Bible only contains 22 Books, whereas our English Old Testament has 39: however, this is simply because of the way the Books were arranged by the Hebrews, and not because there was an actual difference in the number of Books.
“If you were to look at the table of contents of a Hebrew Old Testament, you would notice two differences from our English Old Testament. First, it has only twenty-two books, not thirty-nine. But it is most important to realize that the content is identical; it is just that the Hebrew Bible combines certain books. (For example, books such as 1 and 2 Samuel are combined into one; other smaller books are attached to larger ones.)”. (Erwin Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust The Bible, 2869 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Illinois; Moody Press)
“The books of the Old Testament, in the days of Christ and the Apostles, were the same as now…It is well known that the twenty-two books endorsed by Josephus are the same as our thirty-nine, since he reckoned the minor prophets as one book, Judges and Ruth as one, the two books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, as one each, Ezra and Nehemiah as one, and Jeremiah and Lamentations as one. It should also be remembered that this decisive testimony comes from the times of Christ and His Apostles…The Septuagint version of the Old Testament was the one generally used in the days of Christ. The Apostles usually quote from it, rather than from the Hebrew; but the Septuagint contained the same books as our present Old Testament…This of itself, is sufficient and unanswerable evidence that the ‘Scriptures’ of Christ and the Apostles were our books of the Old Testament.” (Harvey Everest, The Divine Demonstration, 362-363; Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company).
By the time of Christ, the Old Testament Canon had been firmly established.
“According to both Josephus (Against Apion. I. 8) and the Talmud, the succession of prophets ended in Nehemiah’s day with Malachi. The Talmud records, “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.” In addition, the New Testament never quotes any book as authoritative after the time of Malachi. Our investigation shows that as far as the evidence is concerned, the canon of the Old Testament was completed about 400 B.c.” (Norman Geisler & William Nix, From God To Us, 84-85 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Illinois; Moody Press)
The New Testament Canon was clearly established by the end of the first century.
This is made clear by the fact that the Apostles clearly pointed out that their Books contained Divine authority:
I Corinthians 14:37-If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.
Ephesians 3:1-4-1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
Further, both Peter and Paul refer to the Epistles of the Apostles and the Gospels as “Scripture,” indicating their understanding that their writings were regarded as the inspired Word of God, on par with the canonical Old Testament Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 5:18 with Luke 10:7). nbsp;
The Word of God was preserved by scribes who made hundreds of copies of its’ many Books through the years and centuries. Often, the claim is made that there are hundreds of thousands of errors in the manuscript copies: however, those who make this claim do not usually understand how this large number of “errors” is arrived at.
Basically, if there is one word that is omitted in a single manuscript-and if this error is copied in two hundred manuscripts-this is counted as “200 errors (even though the meaning of the text has not been changed).”
“This large number is gained by counting all the variations in all of the manuscripts (above 5,300). For example, if one slight variant were to occur in 4,000 different manuscripts, this would amount to 4,000 “errors.” But this is how one can arrive at the large number of 200,000 “errors.” A person is either unlearned or of a skeptical mind who tries to take this large number of variations and use it in such a way as to undermine one’s faith in the Word of God.” (Neil Lightfoot, How We Got The Bible, 96 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
It is also important to realize that the vast majority of these “errors” stem from common scribal errors.
“a. Unintentional changes of various kinds all arise from the imperfection of some human faculty. These constitute by far the vast majority of all transcriptional errors. 1. Errors of the eye • Wrong division of words that resulted in the formation of new words—early manuscripts were not punctuated, and letters were not separated into words by spaces. • Omission of letters, words, and even whole lines occurred when the astigmatic eye mistook one group of letters or words for another, sometimes located on a different line. • Repetition results in an error opposite the error of omission. Hence, when the eye picked up the same letter or word twice and repeated it, it is called dittography. • Transposition is the reversal of the position of two letters or words. This is technically known as metathesis. In 2 Chronicles 3:4, the transposition of a letter would make the measurements of the porch of Solomon’s Temple out of proportion—for example, 120 cubits instead of 20 cubits as in the LXX (Septuagint). • Other confusion of spelling abbreviations or scribal insertions account for the remainder of scribal errors. This is especially true about Hebrew letters, which were also used for numbers and could be easily confused. These errors of the eye may account for many of the numerical discrepancies in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chronicles 22:2). 2. Errors of the ear occurred only when manuscripts were copied while listening to someone read them. This may explain why some manuscripts (fifth century onward) read kamelos (a rope) instead of kamēlos (a camel) in Matthew 19:24. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, kauthēsomai (he burns) was confused with kauchēsomai (he boasts). 3. Errors of memory. These are not so numerous, but occasionally a scribe might forget the precise word in a passage and substitute a synonym. 4. Errors of judgment. The most common error of this kind is caused by dim lighting or poor eyesight. Sometimes marginal notes were incorporated into the text under the misapprehension that they were part of the text. It is difficult to determine whether some variants are caused by faulty judgment or intentional doctrinal changes….5. Errors of writing. If a scribe, due to imperfect style or accident, wrote indistinctly or imprecisely, he would set the stage for future error of sight or judgment. Rapid copying was no doubt responsible for many errors in writing. This is viewed especially in the parallel accounts of the Kings-Chronicles corpus.” (Ed Hindson & Ergun Caner, The Popular Encyclopedia Of Apologetics, 98-99 (Kindle Edition); Eugenee Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
Finally, the vast majority of these “errors” amount to nothing more than spelling and grammatical blunders, and do not change or alter the meaning of the text
“The overwhelming majority of these four hundred thousand supposed variations stem from differences in spelling, word order, or the relationships between nouns and definite articles. In other words, a copyist simply switched a couple of letters, misheard a word, or skipped a line of text. Such variants are readily recognizable and, in most cases, utterly unnoticeable in translations!…In the end, more than 99 percent of the four hundred thousand or so differences fall into this category of variants that can’t even be seen in translations!” (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies And The Cross, 1531-1538 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary Florida; FrontLine)
The idea of “translation” is that of translating the Bible from its’ original languages (Hebrew, Greek, and parts in Aramaic) into different languages throughout time.
If it were not for Bible translations, we would all need to learn the original languages in order to understand God’s Word.
There is an example of Bible translation in the Old Testament:
Nehemiah 8:8-So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
The Hebrews here had been in captivity in a foreign nation, and were no longer familiar with the language of the Old Testament; therefore, Ezra and the others helped to translate the passage into the common tongue of the people.
“The Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language. Since the people had lived in a foreign country all of their lives, they had lost some of their ability to understand Hebrew. Regardless, the Levites had the job of making sure the people knew what was being said. They were helping them bridge the cultural gap between the last seventy years in Babylonia with their cultural heritage as found in Scripture…Since the Jews in captivity would have used Aramaic along with Hebrew, parts of Ezra are in Aramaic-the international diplomatic language of the time. Part of the work of the Levites was to give them an Aramaic translation.” (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture-Volume 30 Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, 5983-5990 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H publishing Group)
There are many fine translations of the Bible available to us today. When I study with people, I encourage them to obtain a copy of the New King James Version of the Bible (my personal favorite); however, we would do well to utilize several different translations of the Bible in our personal study of the Word of God.
Through this six stage summary, we are able to discern the basic process by which the Bible has come to mankind.
In the following lessons, we will examine more carefully the allegations that there are “lost books of the Bible.”
The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.
What six words describe the basic process by which we have received the Bible? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What are the two basic types of “revelation?” _______________________________________________________________________________________
Name a famous former atheist. _____________________________
Jeremiah 10:23-O LORD, I know the way of man is not __________________; It is not in man who walks to ______________ his own steps.
Miracles were given to ______________ the Word of God.
What were some of the rules for accepting a Book into the Canon of Scripture? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Of the many “textual errors” found in the manuscripts of the Bible, what percentage are due to simple spelling errors and grammatical mistakes? _______
Which two Apostles refer to the New Testament as “Scripture?” ____________________________________________